Events in the late summer
I had been waiting for a long time for two events. One was the 2008 Beijing Olympics; and the other was the 2008 Republican National Convention, to be held in St. Paul, Minnesota. My wife, born and raised in China, maintained an apartment in Beijing. We often visited there. Being a political junkie, I was also was keenly interested in the fact that a national political convention was coming to the Twin Cities. The last time this had happened was in 1892, when the Republicans had renominated President Benjamin Harrison.
The Beijing Olympics came first. I watched the impressive opening ceremony on television on August 8th. On the following day, shocking news came from Beijing that one of the Twin Cities’ most prominent business leaders, Todd Bachman, had been murdered by a 47-year-old man from Hangzhou in the Drum Tower, north of the Forbidden City. My wife and I had visited this place in recent years. Todd Bachman was CEO of Bachman’s, a family-owned business that was the area’s largest floral and garden center. His wife had also been brutally attacked. Their daughter, Elizabeth, was a top-notch volleyball player. Elizabeth’s husband, Hugh McCutcheon, was head coach of the men volleyball team that was competing in the Beijing Olympics.
Off to a rocky start, these games nevertheless produced their share of Olympics highlights such as the record eight gold medals won by U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps. When the games closed on August 24th, the games were generally considered a success. More than $40 billion had been spent on the event, and one billion people had participated in some way. New apartment buildings had been built. Polluting factories had been closed. The Beijing subways had been extended. It was China’s coming-out party in the world.
Now came Minnesota’s “great get together” - the 2008 Minnesota State Fair, held at the fairgrounds off Snelling Avenue in St. Paul. This 12-day event began on Thursday, August 21st, and ended on Monday, September 1st, which was Labor Day. The State Fair was a prime opportunity for candidates competing in Minnesota elections. Most political parties, including the Independence Party, and also many candidates, had their own State Fair booths. In 2008, there were 1,693,533 visitors to the fair.
Normally, I would have been interested. However, the fact that I had not been formally endorsed by the party was an obstacle to my access to the party’s State Fair booth. Rules were rules. With a little arm-twisting by Peter Tharaldson, the rules might have been bent. However, I was less motivated to visit the fair than I might have been for two reasons. First, the fair attracted a statewide crowd and I was running for Congress in the 5th district. Second and more important, the last day of the Minnesota State Fair was also the first day of the Republican National Convention. State fairs happen every year, but national political conventions come maybe once in a century. The Twin Cities could be the “birth place” of a new Presidency.
Small-time political actors such as myself are drawn to large events such as a major party’s national convention because we imagine that, for a short time, it will be the center of the political universe. National media people will be swarming all over the place. If we need and want publicity, this would be our opportunity. During the frequent down periods in the convention, reporters and camera crews may be looking for “human interest” stories. Perhaps our own publicity stunt will appeal to them. Once on national television, we would then become celebrities of a sort, able to attract even more publicity. So I had to go for this event.
As a practical matter, I ran into the same problem that I faced when I was a presidential candidate attending the 2004 Mardi Gras in New Orleans: People are gathering not to look at me but to engage in other activities. I was conscious of trying to insert myself and my campaign into someone else’s political coronation. But so were lots of others. For more than a year now, anti-Republican types had been preparing counter-events of various kinds. There would be teach-ins and protest demonstrations. There might also be violent attempts to disrupt the convention. Most such activities would be taking place near the convention site in St. Paul, the Xcel Center on Kellogg Avenue along the Mississippi river.
Huge preparations were being made for the Republican convention. An anarchistic organization called the Republican Welcoming Committee was preparing to engage in its own type of militant protest. Less militant groups, equally opposed to Republicans and especially President Bush, were organizing a march to the Xcel center that might involve thousands of people. Other than the convention itself, that’s where the action would be.
I knew that I would be lost in that crowd. if I wanted publicity, I had to find my own angle. I decided I would stake my own territory in Minneapolis. I had read that many of the delegates would have hotel rooms there. An article in the Downtowner said that some important Republican delegates would be staying at the Hyatt hotel on Nicollet Avenue near 14th Street. My hunch was that this was the place to be.
Rumblings of trouble with the police
In the run-up to the convention, on Tuesday, August 26th, reports were circulating on e-democracy forum that the police had arrested three people in northeast Minneapolis. They were accused of trespassing on railroad property.
It turned out that these persons were journalists in town to cover activities related to the Republican National Convention. One was from Poland. A man who had invited them to stay at his house claims that the journalists were detained as they stepped off the Number 17 bus. The police confiscated their video equipment, cameras, cell phones, notebooks, and other materials in a backpack. They were later returned. However, this appeared to be an attempt by the police to intimidate and perhaps disrupt journalists who shot video of police interaction with protest groups or otherwise reported on convention-related events.
Though previously a supporter of the Minneapolis police on the forum, I now saw a threat to civil liberties. I posted a message on the e-democracy forum on August 27th: “This is the week’s most important event ... Although none but eyewitnesses can know for sure, it does seem that trespassing on railroad property is a mere cover story. And if the authorities will commit illegal acts and then lie about it, citizens of our community need to be concerned ...
“ Reportedly the journalists are pursuing legal action to get their equipment back. How long will that take? Will it be before the convention has ended? Bruce Shoemaker suggests contacting the mayor and city council about this matter. I have another suggestion. Considering that the e-democracy forum was able to attract 200 persons to a picnic in Hawthorne last week, how about a protest event at Minneapolis city hall to demand that the equipment be returned immediately? If such an event comes off, I’ll bring the bull horn.”
Now, however, reports were surfacing about other preemptive police action. On August 30th, there was a report that St. Paul police and Ramsey sheriff’s deputies, with guns drawn, had raided a converted theater on Smith Street in St. Paul where members of the “Republican Welcoming Committee” were gathering. Several dozen people were put in handcuffs and were photographed before being released.
Then there were reports of raids on three houses in south Minneapolis. The Ramsey County sheriff claimed that anarchists, staying there, were planning "to blockade and disable delegate buses, breaching venue security and injuring police officers." He said that “deputies seized a variety of items that they believed were tools of civil disobedience: a gas mask, bolt cutters, axes, slingshots, homemade ‘caltrops’ for disabling buses, even buckets of urine." The urine, presumably, was to be thrown at the police. It was later claimed that the houses had inadequate bathroom facilities.
Something was brewing. The convention, to begin on September 1st, was already changing the character of our two cities.
I saw my wife off at the airport on the morning of Friday, August 29th. My Chinese-born wife, who hates politics because of experiences in the Cultural Revolution, would be visiting her sister in Tennessee for a week. Then I headed over to the Minneapolis convention center. An exhibition called “CivicFest” was opening on that day. It would run through the last day of the convention. The tickets cost $15. However, a newspaper ad said that the first 5,000 visitors would be admitted free. I was one of them.
The CivicFest exhibition had many artifacts of American democracy. There were campaign buttons going back to before Lincoln’s time, “historic documents” relating to the Continental Congress and Articles of Confederation, Presidential dinner ware, first ladies’ gowns, a scale model of the White House, a replica of the Oval Office and even of the passenger lounge in Air Force One.
In the first few minutes at this place, I learned from a news ticker on C-SPAN’s tour bus parked at CivicFest that John McCain had picked Alaska’s Governor Sarah Palin to be his vice-presidential running mate. I had never heard of her. Well, it’s over for Mitt Romney, I thought. Minnesota’s Governor, Tim Pawlenty, had also been left behind.
I spent two hours at CivicFest. Before leaving the exhibition, I attended a reading given by Marilyn Carlson, CEO of the Carlson Companies, of her new book on the entrepreneurial spirit, including lessons from her life. This was perhaps the closest to Twin Cities royalty I would ever come. After the reading, attendees could purchase copies of the book, which Carlson would autograph. I thought of buying a copy, but, being in a cheap frame of mind, decided against it. Carlson was so rich she should probably give her books away. That’s what I had done with many of my self-published works. But maybe that’s why Carlson and her family were billionaires and I was struggling financially.
The big news that day, August 29th, was, of course, the Palin pick. A few details had come out about her life. My immediate impression was that McCain had picked her to curry favor with female voters who were disappointed that Hillary Clinton was not the Democratic nominee. Evidently, Governor Palin had also tried to get her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper after a messy divorce from Palin’s sister.
I posted on e-democracy forum around 2:45 p.m.: “I have to believe that this was not a good choice for McCain. It has the appearance of being a cheap shot in the game of gender politics to try to peel off Hillary Clinton voters. ... Sarah Palin is a political unknown. She’s been governor of Alaska for less than two years. Because she supports drilling in the Alaska wildlife refuge area, maybe her selection strengthens McCain’s commitment to that part of his energy program ... Palin is currently focus of a mini-scandal involving a call from the Governor’s office to try to get a state trooper fired who was involved in a contentious divorce case. That Jerry Springer-like aspect of her public persona hardly befits inclusion on a national ticket ... It just doesn’t look good to me.”
After watching news reports later that day, I had a change of heart. Maybe John McCain was on to something. My posting at 10:03 p.m. read: “As more information becomes available, the picture is more complicated. My initial reaction was that Palin was an inexperienced politician picked solely to counter Hillary Clinton's appeal among women ... However, the fact that Palin fought corrupt influences in state politics, even those related to her own party, strengthens McCain's appeal as someone who wants to clean up Washington. Also, Palin's pro-life, pro-guns stance helps McCain with the Republican base. ... The weakness, of course, is that Palin's inexperience in national politics is a dangerous quality in someone ‘a heartbeat away from the Presidency’. However, her vulnerability may be no worse than when Truman took over from Roosevelt.”
John McCain - he was the key to this convention. I did not support him because I thought the Republican Bush administration had done a horrible job and it was time for a thorough house-cleaning. McCains’s policies were too close to those of Bush. But I did acquire a grudging respect for John McCain as a politician. The Democratic national convention in Denver had been picture-perfect, capped by Barack Obama’s address to tens of thousands of cheering supporters at the Mile-High stadium. How could the Republicans top that? They couldn’t, so McCain changed the game.
On the first day of the convention, a hurricane struck Louisiana and other states on the Gulf coast. It seemed at first a repeat of Hurricane Katrina. McCain and the Republicans then decided to tone down the convention. Its activities were scaled back on the opening day. After McCain arrived in town, he was photographed bagging relief packages for hurricane victims at the Minneapolis convention center. It was just the right touch.
Then there was Sarah Palin. I watched her speech to the convention delegates on Wednesday night. Wow! Where did this woman come from? I had never seen anyone like her in national politics. She was what one might call a “real American woman” - representative of a previously underrepresented group in our politics. She was the type of woman who would be organizing Tupperware parties or driving kids to school, a white woman with a big family, someone having quirky views but relentlessly energetic and positive. “Hockey mom” - that’s how Palin described herself. I loved her joke about the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull being “lip stick”.
I realized that Republican campaign gurus probably orchestrated the whole thing but I had to admire the spectacle. It’s no accident that the Republicans had managed victories in the last several presidential campaigns. As an Independence Party person and candidate, I could look at the political scene with a certain detachment. My party would not win. But I could participate, and I had a ringside seat to events in the 2008 political season.
Back to business. I needed to be seen. I needed to use the Republican National Convention as an opportunity to get my message out as a Congressional candidate. With that in mind, I made some more signs with large lettering. The main one read: “Bill McGaughey for U.S. Congress - Independence Party - Can We talk about Jobs?” That was my campaign in a nut shell.
But because people would be wondering why I was standing there with picket signs, I had to create another placard. It read: “It’s tough for some third-party candidates to get good speaking engagements - but - the message is getting out.” That last part, “the message is getting out”, was to counteract the sad-sack message of the first part. I didn’t want people to interpret my statement as an admission that I was a loser.
Of course, there was a fear that my personal picketing might get me arrested. For that reason, I telephoned the city attorney’s office to seek a legal opinion. The attorney on the phone seemed not to want to commit himself; he steered me to certain sections in the city ordinances. When I called “311”, however, the operator was more obliging. He said he had made a study of laws pertaining to public demonstrations. No, I did not need a permit to demonstrate so long as not more than 25 people were involved. However, I should be careful not to block traffic on the sidewalks. Other than that, I could go ahead and do my solo demonstration. It was legal in Minneapolis.
Although the convention itself would not begin until Monday, September 1st, delegates and press would be arriving over the weekend. This might actually be the best time to make contact with them and get noticed. My time spent at CivicFest on Friday was for pleasure. On Saturday, August 30th, I would come back to the same place with sign and bullhorn and engage the hundreds of people who would be visiting the exhibition. I even imagined that I would start making a speech and draw crowds.
It took me until noon on Saturday to get organized. With all the gear - signs, easels to exhibit the signs, bullhorn, and satchel for literature - I thought I would splurge and pay $8.00 to park in a nearby lot instead of walking all the way from Stevens Square across the freeway where I usually park when attending convention events. So, I parked in the church lot and walked around the convention center to set up shop on the sidewalk on the west side of the building near the entrance to the CivicFest exhibition. There were two problems. First, the wind kept blowing my sign off the easel. Second, there were no crowds. Only occasionally would someone walk by.
I thought more people were walking through a plaza across the street. Therefore, I moved my demonstration to a bench across the street. To combat the wind, I took off my belt and used it to strap the sign to a pole. The results were better. Two journalists from China passed by. I told them that my wife was Chinese and we had been in Beijing earlier that year. Afterwards, I had a conversation with a member of the Vermont Republican delegation. He told me a bit about himself and how he had become involved in politics. His advice to me was to cultivate personal contacts. I also ran into a pair of journalists from Europe who said they would interview me next day if I returned to that spot. I was beginning to get traction - still no speeches, however.
Then a young security guard came out from the convention center and crossed the street. He told me that I was not allowed to demonstrate there. I told him that I had checked with city officials and been told it was legal. Yes, but there were special rules pertaining to the convention center. He suggested that I walk over to the Hyatt hotel on Nicollet Avenue if I wanted to demonstrate. Although I was sure he was bluffing, I did not wish to argue. The Hyatt was one of the places I had considered.
By that time, I was becoming discouraged. I did walk over to the Hyatt. Things were quiet there as well. Nothing was yet happening. I thought I heard a man who was carrying bags into the hotel say he was with the New York Times. This might be a good place for me to stand. But not now. I stayed for ten minutes or so scouting the best locations if I should return at a future time. Then I called it a day and went home, carrying my equipment back to the parking lot.
Sunday, the 31st, was to be my big day. By then, most convention delegates would have arrived. Many would be staying at the Hyatt, I guessed. There was also the Millennium hotel across the street. A sign said the Illinois delegation would be staying at it. This location appeared to be a crossroads. Down Nicollet avenue was some public entertainment in Peavey park. Across another park was the Minneapolis convention center with its CivicFest exhibition.
By then, I had bought colored bungee cords to hold the signs in place. One was a stylized picture of a young blonde woman with sun glasses. The lettering said: “Restore the American dream.” Arriving in the late morning, I fastened my signs to a street-light pole, facing in both directions. Then I waited to engage the expected crowds.
Again, it was quiet. More people seemed to be walking down the sidewalk across the street. After an hour or so, I therefore moved my signs to that location. Across the street, on the west side of Nicollet avenue, just north of the Hyatt entrance, there was tall metal stand or kiosk to identify Nicollet Mall. I strapped two of my signs on it, facing in either direction. A streetlight pole secured the sign about the American dream. Hopefully, more people would walk by this located and engage me in conversation.
They did not. Many people seemed to want to avoid me. A security officer for the hotel came over and said politely it would only be a matter of time before I was asked to leave. I knew that was a bluff. I had no other option but to stay. So I just stood in that location for hours on end, looking rather silly.
A parade came up Nicollet Mall passing my location. Some of the floats were quite colorful - for instance, a woman straddling a missile. Leslie Davis had a display. This might be the Minneapolis contingent of the protest demonstration. I wish I had known about it beforehand; but I did not. I was out of the loop. Police officers driving by smirked when they saw my sign about how hard it was for third-party candidates to get good speaking engagements. In my original location across the street some people who were protesting the Chinese government’s treatment of Falun Gong seemed to have more success in talking with people. I took some of their literature.
Later in the day, my own opportunity arrived. The Idaho delegation, ready to board the charter bus to St. Paul, would be loading at the corner next to me. For twenty minutes or so, there might be a chance to talk with someone.
Idaho Republicans had a special place in Minneapolis hearts because a Republican Senator from Idaho, Larry Craig, had been arrested the year before in a men’s room at the St. Paul-Minneapolis International Airport allegedly for soliciting gay sex. He had tapped his foot under the divider to the next stall where an undercover police officer was sitting. Originally, Craig pled guilty to the charge; then he wished to retract the plea. He insisted he was not gay. There was an ongoing legal case. Craig's political career had been ruined. This was one of two big “disasters” happening in Minneapolis in 2007 - the I-35W bridge collapse being the other, and certainly more important. But, of course, Senator Craig’s personal problems had little to do with the Idaho delegation.
They seemed like nice people. Most were middle-aged couples, some in western garb, out to enjoy the convention and see something of our city. I spoke with an elderly man, who appeared to have some authority in the group. Spotting my sign “Can we talk about job?”, he took me up on the offer. “What about jobs?,” he asked. I said I thought job loss was a big problem for Americans, especially those outsourced to foreign countries. The man asked me if I supported free trade. I said i did not. “That’s bad,” he remarked, turning away as he prepared to board the bus. That was the most meaningful exchange of political views I had during the entire convention period. I left my Nicollet Mall location around 6:00 p.m.
I did not want to waste another day at the Hyatt. There would be a large protest demonstration in St. Paul next day, Monday, Labor Day, on the opening day of the Republican National Convention. That’s where the action was, to the extent that I knew where to find it. So in the early afternoon next day I drove to St. Paul and found a parking place on a street near the Cathedral. Then I walked down the hill to Archbishop Ireland Boulevard.
What a scene! The “bad” guys and gals, wearing black bandanas over their faces, were massed for action. Like a swarm of angry bees, they moved one way or the other under the wary eyes of the police. With a digital camera I snapped pictures. I had the impression that these people were young punks or punk wannabes, out to cause trouble. A young woman with a bandana deliberately knocked over a highway sign. I helped a police officer put the sign back in its place.
A young man climbed down the embankment to Interstate Highway 94 as if he intended to block traffic as the cars whizzed by. Apparently, this project was not worthwhile, for he soon rejoined his comrades. My impression then was that the police were taking everything in stride, not overreacting.
Crowds were assembling on the lawn of the State Capitol in preparation for the march to Xcel Center. I intended to be part of that march carrying in front the placard that identified me as a candidate for Congress; in back, strapped over my neck, was the picture of the blonde in sunglasses. Approaching the State Capitol lawn, I bought a ticket to the Nader rally on Thursday at the discounted price of $5.00. Some men who belonged to labor unions recognized me from the days when we organized against NAFTA. We talked for ten minutes or so. Then the march got underway. Slowly we formed a large column of marchers passing the Centennial Building, a state office building (where I had worked in 1965), on our left and heading down the hill to St. Paul’s business district.
Strung out in a line, the march went down Cedar Avenue, turned right, and then left again on to another street paralleling Cedar. Our destination was an area about a block from the Xcel Center which the police had set aside for protesters. Chain link fences separated the mob of protesters from convention delegates. The temperature was in the 90s.
I was feeling the effects of the heat. I had a few brief conversations with fellow protestors but otherwise kept to myself. No media picked up on my candidacy. There were costumed people doing street theater, dressed as President Bush or another unsavory character, and persons with bullhorns leading the crowd in chants. It was generally peaceful but also ineffective from the standpoint of communicating with Republican delegates or influencing their views in any way.
The highlight of the march was the brief period when we stood behind the chain-link fence a block away from the entrance to the Excel center, where the convention was beginning its first day. I later read that a march leader slipped a piece of paper through the fence addressed to the delegates. That was the extent of our “communication”. The moving line snaked back to the left following the fence and then dispersed to Seventh street near the Assumption Catholic church.
I saw some weary marchers sitting on the grass of the church property behind a wire rope. Even though a sign forbade trespassing, I joined them. As I was relaxing on the grass, a friend of mine from a singing group, Tim Frantzich, recognized me. We exchanged greetings. Then another man asked me if I would care to fill out a brief questionnaire. A group associated with the University of Minnesota was surveying people who had participated in the protest march to determine their background and motivation.
What the heck! I was not a typical protester but a Congressional candidate trying to exploit the event to gain publicity. And here was someone trying to exploit me. It was a sign of the times. There was no innocence any more; everyone had his own angle. I filled out the survey form on a clipboard.
As I walked up the hill toward my car, I crossed John Ireland Boulevard. A dozen or more police in riot gear were blocking the boulevard to the left; and to the right, toward the State Capitol, were the same group of restless young men and women wearing bandanas. I had to snap a few more photographs. Some confrontation seemed to be in the works but I was in a hurry to return to my car. I climbed the staircase leading up to the Cathedral area and then walked a block or so to my parked car.
There was a ticket on the window. I had not noticed that this was a restricted parking area. The fine would be $50. Not only this, the ticketing officer had also cited me for having a rear license plate that was obscured with a transparent plastic cover. That would cost me another $110. Maybe the St. Paul police officer had decided to throw the book at me because he saw one of my signs in the back seat? I did some legal research on the Internet and decided to fight the fines. Several weeks later, a hearing officer at a judicial office on White Bear Avenue in St. Paul reduced the illegal-parking fine to $25 and dismissed the larger fine on my word that I would remove the plastic covering. A happy outcome.
Monday was, as it happened, a day of active skirmishing between convention protesters and the police. The main action was on the east side of downtown near Jackson street in the late afternoon. The St. Paul police aided by other law-enforcement agencies were reported to be targeting journalists. They were arresting people who had press credentials and confiscating equipment, in addition to apprehending other groups of protesters. Many were taken to jail.
In the most celebrated case, the police arrested Amy Goodman, host of the “Democracy Now” news program that aired on cable television. I sometimes watched watched this program instead of the 10 o’clock local news. Goodman was obviously no terrorist or violent protester. From my point of view, it were as if the police had arrested Tom Brokaw or Anderson Cooper while they were doing a television interview. Clearly the police were stepping over the line.
I reminded myself on the following day that I was out to promote my candidacy for Congress, not protest the convention or experience the rush of interacting with police. So it was back to Minneapolis. Specifically, there to be an all-day rally of Ron Paul supporters at the Target Center. Ron Paul had run one of the most spirited campaigns of the year but had not been given due respect by the Republican establishment. I had often seen his signs planted in the grass along highways.
Like Obama, Ron Paul raised lots of money on the internet. He had gained an impressive share of the Republican primary vote, never enough to win but occasionally placing in the double digits. All this was done by a campaign that ran against the grain of “mainstream” Republican values. Paul was against the Iraq war and the security state. He was against the United States becoming a military empire. Like some conservatives, he also criticized the I.R.S. and the Federal Reserve System. Ron Paul was for old-fashioned freedom.
So now Ron Paul and his supporters were staging a counter-convention in Minneapolis called “Rally for the Republic”. Tuesday’s rally was to be the third and largest event in a three-day series. It would begin at 12:30 p.m. I parked my car about half a mile away from the Target Center behind the Metro Transit headquarters, my old employer, and then walked to the event.
There was a lively scene near the main entrance to the Target Center. I strapped my campaign sign around one of the columns. (I later learned that a blogger had attached a photo of it to his blog.) There were some Ron Paul supporters who told me about a project to encourage conservatives to move to New Hampshire to give that state the desired political complexion. There were people distributing flyers or holding up signs for the passing cars. Someone gave me a free ticket to attend the event. I caught a glimpse of the Libertarian candidate for President, Bob Barr, talking with reporters. Hundreds of people were milling around the Target Center on that side of the building.
A man told me that Target Center security intended to confiscate the signs that were left unattended after the event started. He had found a coffee shop across the street that would let people keep their signs there. I decided instead to take mine back to the car. Then I returned to the Target Center, planning to spend the rest of the day there as a spectator.
The program booklet said that the Republican candidate for Congress in the 5th district, Barb Davis White, would deliver the invocation at 12:50 p.m. I had never met this opponent but had seen her picture. My own campaign seemed comparatively bereft of support. I missed the invocation arriving in time to hear Grover Norquist, a Republican heavy hitter, give a talk.
There were a number of interesting speakers. Gary Johnson, a successful businessman, had been governor of New Mexico. Bruce Fein was an articulate exponent of conservative political philosophy. The most interesting of them from my standpoint, though, was Jesse Ventura. Jesse gave an inspiring speech and then let Dean Barkley talk for a minute or so.
Former Governor Ventura, star of my own Independence Party, was a fixture at such events because he reminded people that third-party candidates could win. Ventura’s speech was well received by this audience of thousands. At one point, people stood up and cheered when the former Governor suggested that the right to bear arms meant that people had the right to use these arms against the government when it became oppressive. Ventura was not running for any office at this time but he did promise to get involved once a movement for freedom made sufficient progress. Remember, “Don’t start the Revolution without Me!” was the title of his most recent book.
At 7:00 p.m., Barry Goldwater, Jr. approached the podium to introduce Ron Paul. Over at the Xcel Center, a Republican party dominated by conservatives was ready to nominate John McCain for President. It was the party of Ronald Reagan. I was old enough to remember, however, that before Reagan there was Barry Goldwater, the party’s 1964 presidential nominee. He was the founder of the modern conservative movement. And here was Goldwater’s son, a former Congressman who was presumably in tune with his father’s thinking, placing the mantle of conservative politics on Ron Paul. True conservatives were not the security-obsessed crowd surrounding the Bush Administration but persons who believed in personal, economic, and political freedom.
Ron Paul, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology by profession, also gave a boffo performance. With his squeaky high-pitched voice, he ran down the list of grievances against government as it had become. U.S. militarism was one big concern. Excessive taxes and regulation were another. Paul also favored abolishing income taxes and the Federal Reserve Bank. He wanted to return the federal government to the powers that had been granted to it under the U.S. Constitution. He and his supporters were modern-day patriots fighting tyranny, even within the Republican Party. I thought that many of Paul’s views paralleled my own. Maybe this was a movement I should join some day. The rally ended at 9:30 p.m.
Wednesday’s events, to be honest, I do not recall. I do know that Sarah Palin’s speech came at the end of the day. There was a confrontation between police and groups attending a performance of “Rage against the Machine” at the Target Center that night. On my calendar I see that I had an appointment at the Bean Scene on Broadway to discuss Independence Party business, probably with Peter Tharaldson and Roger Smithrud, at 7 p.m., We moved this meeting to McDonald’s. I also see that I sent an email message to Brian Moore to say that I had a blank petitioning form. I was working on my immigration proposal during that period. Otherwise, my mind is a blank. I may have had no convention-related activities on that day.
On Thursday, September 4th, I was determined to make the best use of my remaining time. I had read that John McCain was staying at the Hilton hotel near the convention center. Presumably, he and the Hilton family had forgiven each other over the flap concerning Paris Hilton’s celebrity status. I parked my car across the freeway and walked over to the front of the Hilton hotel, on the west side. Something was stirring. Well-dressed men and women were hailing taxis. I thought of taking my bullhorn to the other side of the street and giving a speech. However, police were blocking access to that area. I stood on the street corner with my sign. Then I went around to the other side of the hotel, the east side, where squad cars were massed. A photographer had patiently staked out a good position to look down the street.
There was more commotion. Then a parade of cars drove down the street going south on Second Avenue at a brisk rate of speed. I snapped a photo. The police started removing some of the barricades. I asked the professional-looking photographer what had happened. He confirmed that John McCain had been in one of those cars. The Presidential candidate was on his way to St. Paul where he would deliver his acceptance speech in the evening.
The excitement was over in this part of town. I drove over to St. Paul. Wary of receiving another ticket, I parked on the street north of the State Capitol where other cars were parked. I decided, perhaps unfortunately, not to take my sign or my bullhorn with me. I would just walk around taking in the scene. There was a sound stage on the lawn south of the Capitol. Evidently, a musical event was planned. The audience was just now starting to assemble.
I decided, however, that I would walk farther down to Rice Park in downtown St. Paul, which was nearer to the Xcel Center. On the way I encountered an old acquaintance, Eskit, a left-leaning musician who did political satire. He gave me one of his CDs. Too, there were colorful statements of other persuasions. A truck drove down the street with signs that told Republicans to repent. Homosexuality was wrong and John McCain might go to hell if he supported abortion. Police were everywhere.
In Rice Park, next to the Landmark Center, a large stage was installed in the middle of the park. Chris Matthews of MSNBC was broadcasting Hardball from that location. From a distance, I could see him interviewing Rudy Guiliani, New York’s former mayor. The next guest was our own U.S. Senator, Amy Klobuchar. I walked around the stage to get another view.
After the interview segment, Matthews came down to talk with people in the audience. An assistant was selecting individuals who would later be asked to make short statements on tape. I wanted to be included among that group but Matthews’ assistant was not interested in me. I think he was looking for certain types of people with certain opinions. Also, MSNBC was giving out wooden paddles as souvenirs. “All politics is local,” they said. Matthews was autographing some of these paddles. I received a paddle but not his autograph.
In the main area north of the stage, various groups had exhibits. There was a a pro-Israel organization - I think it was the Israel Project - that had been running television commercials during the convention period. I never saw them at other times. Rather graphically, these commercials showed missiles flying over to Minneapolis from St. Paul. The idea was that this was what the Israeli population had to endure next to its Palestinian neighbors. The same group was represented in the park by several young men. I asked one a few questions and made a few comments. I did not have a chance to talk with the man holding a banner about 9/11 truth.
I had bought a ticket to attend the Nader rally in Minneapolis. The doors to Orchestra Hall opened a 6:15 p.m. That limited the time that I could spend here in St. Paul. So I walked back up the hill toward the State Capitol. Near the freeway, I-94, I encountered a police blockade. What would I do? My car was on the other side.
Fortunately, the police were willing to let me through their blockade provided that I did not return to the downtown side. Walking up Cedar, I encountered squadrons of police, both on the Cedar overpass and on the street below the overpass, University Avenue. The action was over. My car behind the State Capitol was still there and unticketed. I returned to Minneapolis.
At that time of the day, I was able to park free of meters on LaSalle Street and 15th, which was not far from Orchestra Hall. I walked to the sidewalk area off Nicollet Avenue and attached my campaign sign to a tree. Most people entering Orchestra Hall ignored me. However, I did have a conversation with a man who belonged to a Socialist organization, not Brian Moore’s outfit but a local one. Also, Leslie Davis was there with his anti-Ventura display. I planned to stay at the Nader rally, “Open the Debates”, until shortly before John McCain was scheduled to deliver his acceptance speech in St. Paul and then return home to watch the speech on television.
This rally was again a top-notch performance. I especially enjoyed a performance by a female singer whose name, I think, was Nellie McKay. She had a satyrical number about feminists lacking a sense of humor. The song itself was quite funny. Jesse Ventura was again one of the speakers. Not quite as fired up as at the Ron Paul rally, he still delivered a powerful message. Again, Dean Barkley made a brief appearance. The crowd this time was around 800.
Both Ralph Nader and his running mate, Matt Gonzalez, gave impressive speeches. I had heard Nader many times before, but Gonzalez was new to me. He had nearly been elected Mayor of San Francisco. So Nader was campaigning with a political heavyweight. I stayed for all the speeches but left during the question-and-answer session because I needed to return home to watch John McCain’s acceptance speech on television. As it happened, I was too late. My understanding of the night’s convention schedule was incorrect. I missed the McCain speech but caught portions of it on the evening news.
The Republican National Convention was now over. It had consumed more than a week of my time when I might have been pursuing other campaign goals. But I had to do this. I would have kicked myself if I had missed the convention. I had spent as much time as possible both out on the street and in my room watching convention coverage.
There was no doubt that the Republicans knew how to put on a show. Besides Sarah Palin, I watched Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and others speak in prime time. My favorite was Rudy Guiliani with his routine comparing John McCain’s and Barack Obama’s records. The Obama resume, said Guiliani, was quite “thin”. With a slightly raised eyebrow and a faint trace of mockery in his voice, he ran through Obama’s work history, pausing at “community organizer”. Obama had been a “community organizer” on the south side of Chicago - whatever that meant - while McCain had been enacting laws. The two records did not equate.
While I was stumbling along in search of publicity, I later learned that my landlord friend, Jim Swartwood, had wangled his way into a Republican VIP reception with the help of his Watchdog press credential. Someone had suggested that he board a bus bound for a lavish gathering at the University Club on Summit Avenue. There he met Rudy Guiliani, no less. The two had posed for a photograph together. It appeared in the next issue of the Watchdog.
The convention in St. Paul gave the Republicans a bump in the polls. Sarah Palin became briefly a national sensation. But then reality set in, and economic problems arose that not even “Joe the Plumber” could fix for the Republicans. The Wall Street bailout was a political blow from which they never recovered. Barack Obama was elected President by a comfortable margin.
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